June 9, 2009

Barefoot Walking Experiment

I go for a walk around my neighbourhood almost every day. Today I was thinking of skipping it because my back hurt more than usual. I'm glad I went.

I went out with my KSO VFFs and Injijis on. I immediately noticed how much more cushioning there is with the toe socks on because I've been walking lately without any socks. I don't think I stepped any harder on the ground because of the extra cushioning, but you never know.

The experiment part: I thought I'd try landing on my forefoot while walking today to see what it feels like. I find that I usually walk this way when walking on gravel or other sharp surfaces; my step naturally changes to this way of landing. Today, I thought I'd try it on the sidewalk and compare it to the way I normally walk, which is landing on the outside of my heel first.

It is definitely not a natural way for me to step on a hard, even surface. It took a lot more energy and thought to walk this way. I noticed my footfalls were much quieter, though. But I also noticed how tired my back muscles got very quickly. I don't have a lot of back muscles at the moment (due to my current back injury) but I certainly felt them walking today. I wonder how it would feel to walk barefoot (or in barefoot shoes) with a forefoot landing for an extended period of time? My guess is it's probably a good workout, considering how tired my back muscles were after a short time. None of my leg muscles got tired so quickly, though.

When the back muscle fatigue started getting uncomfortable (not painful, though), I relaxed more into my normal walking stride. The outside of my heels would naturally hit the ground first, although very lightly. You can't really step hard in minimal footwear. My footfalls were louder than before. And most importantly, all the back muscle fatigue disappeared. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it definitely felt better to me. When I'm not consciously thinking about how I'm walking, I'll walk this way and without pain.

After walking for 20 minutes, the more-than-usual back pain that I'd felt all day was gone. I think I should have gone for my daily walk earlier in the day, I probably would have felt better sooner. Maybe I'll try forefoot landing a little more each day and see if my back muscles get stronger...